Sidelining council 'no solution'

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 28/02/2013

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Government attempts to speed up resource management processes and sideline councillors in the process are cavalier, says Palmerston North city councillor Tangi Utikere.

He was supporting a council submission adopted yesterday on proposed changes to the Resource Management Act.

The changes have been proposed against a background of high housing costs, as part of an attempt to make more affordable land available for building, and with other changes foreshadowed for the Local Government Act.

But the council's submission resists "the continual identification of local government as ‘the problem'."

It argues local government is not putting up barriers to building a more productive and competitive economy or holding back the provision of land for development.

Cr Utikere said the Government's stand was "cavalier" and local government's protests must be taken seriously. "It's an attempt to fiddle with local matters best served by local councils," he said.

It was frustrating that after all the work the council had done consulting its ratepayers to design strategies for land use, transport and urban design, that the Government would want to step in and fast-track decisions that overlooked what the community wanted, he said.

In its submission, the council says it is concerned about the watering down of the role of councils, councillors and communities in decision-making.

Some larger projects would be referred directly to the Environment Court rather than go through a local hearing. "It is simply naive to think that planning and resource management should be left purely to the opinions of technical experts and decisions of externally appointed panels or the Environment Court," city planner David Murphy said.

Mr Murphy said 95 per cent of all resource consents were processed on time, and only 6 per cent were publicly notified, a reality that did not support calls to speed up the process. "Streamlining of the resource consent regime is unlikely to make any substantial gains."

He pointed to the city's experience with the Turitea wind farm applications that were "called in" to be heard by a board of inquiry, and went well beyond the nine-month deadline before a decision was reached.

Attempts to streamline the process would be undermined by other changes in the reform bill, which demanded greater analysis of the economic growth and job opportunities that would be created or foregone depending on whether consents were granted or not.

Mr Murphy said cost-benefit analyses did not fit within the resource management context.

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Rather than speeding things up, many of the changes would increase the time it took to prepare applications as simple as building a garage closer than usually allowed to a boundary.

- Manawatu Standard

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